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Current Penal Trends in New Zealand

            New Zealand has the second highest incarceration rate in the OECD - 203 per 100,000 of the total population; only the USA is higher. "Though forming just 12.5% of the general population aged 15 and over, 42% of all criminal apprehensions involve a person identifying as Maori, as do 50% of all persons in prison." The following factors: A racially biased judicial system, the effect of populist lobby groups, the politicization of crime, media centered on crime and Neo liberalism can be found culpable for the current punitive trends and the overrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the New Zealand adult penal system. New Zealand has been ranked first in a global peace index which looked at issues such as corruption, violence and crime rates (UNESCO). This would be in line with international perception of the country's state of affairs. However contrary to these popularly held beliefs a comparative study of 11 similar (OECD) countries' justice systems found New Zealand's system is racist and punitive. It is curious why these contradictions exist in a developed multicultural society such as New Zealand. .
             There is a clear amplification and bias operating within the justice system. Research in Aotearoa has demonstrated that, compared to non-Māori, Māori have higher rates of police scrutiny, arrest and conviction and receive harsher sentencing for same offences (Fergusson, Swain-Campbell & Horwood 2003a). As a consequence Maori "accumulate" in the system in larger numbers than other ethnic groups. Systemic factors operating at one or more positions of the criminal justice production line increase the likelihood of Maori being apprehended, arrested, charged, convicted or imprisoned. The amplification explanation postulates that, whatever the actual amount of criminal behavior, any crime perpetrated (or suspected) is subject to intrinsic paradigms that make it more likely that Maori will be apprehended, and then treated with more severity.

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